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A Forgotten Story of Courage

February 9, 2020

Allied liberation of Paris, Source US National Archives and Records Administration (Identifier 531215) (PD)

Late in 1943, Huguette and Marion Muller – German Jews – made their way to the Alps in search of refuge [1A].  The Holocaust had already claimed their mother, Edith, who was gassed at Auschwitz.

The sisters fled to France, when Hitler came to power.  Now, they were headed to the small resort town of Val d’Isere, near the French/Italian border.

This choice was not without danger.  The region was Roman Catholic and highly right-wing.  Nazi soldiers there regularly pillaged and burned the homes of anyone who failed to report for assigned factory work.  Residents still refer to the Nazi occupation as la terreur.

The sisters found themselves in real peril when Huguette broke her leg.  The local physician, Dr. Frédéric Pétri, said the break was so severe the teen should be moved to a nearby hospital.

Their parents had baptized Huguette, so there was no “J” on her identity card.  However, the mere fact that she was born in Berlin would have been sufficient to send her to a death camp on arrival at the hospital.

Afraid their secret would be discovered, the girls resisted.  But Dr. Petri surprised the sisters by offering to take Huguette in, till her leg healed.

Unbeknownst to them, Dr. Pétri had already spent two years in a German prisoner of war camp.  Yet at the risk of his life, he cared for Huguette in his own home, while she convalesced.

Both sisters survived WW II.  Dr. Petri took their secret to his grave.

“He [Dr Frédéric Pétri] was driven by a passion, not for plastering broken legs, but for caring for people.  He was profoundly generous and all his life he did everything he could for others.”

-Christel Petri, daughter of Dr. Petri [1B]

From 1940 – 1944, about 75,000 Jews were deported from France to concentration camps.  It was not until 1995 that Pres. Jacques Chirac acknowledged French responsibility in the Holocaust.

[1A and 1B]  BBC News, “Val d’Isere:  The doctor who hid a Jewish girl – and the resort that wants to forget” by Rosie Whitehouse, 1/5/20,


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